WWE’s Tegan Nox and Dakota Kai Take Rivalry to Next Level With Cage Match on ‘NXT’

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Tegan Nox is one of NXT’s international stars.

Nox is from Bargoed, Wales, and wrestled across the United Kingdom before signing with WWE in 2017. Only 25, she has already persevered through intense physical pain, most notably in 2018 when she tore her ACL and MCL in a Mae Young Classic match against Rhea Ripley.

Wednesday marks one of the biggest nights in Nox’s wrestling career as she wrestles Dakota Kai in a steel cage match on NXT. Nox spoke with Sports Illustrated to discuss her program with Kai, overcoming adversity, and her future goals in pro wrestling.

Justin Barrasso: This Wednesday’s cage match is an opportunity to showcase your ability and help define the direction of your career. What do you want to prove to those watching?

Tegan Nox: I want to prove to everyone watching and those who have ever doubted me that you can overcome any obstacle.

People doubted me because of my knee injuries, but now I’ve had my first TakeOver and now I’m in a steel cage on NXT TV live on the USA Network. That’s something not many people can say they’ve done, especially coming from Wales in a hometown that is so small. Dakota [who is from New Zealand] and me, we’re the first two very female athletes from our respective countries against one another in a cage match, and that means a lot to us.

JB: There have been a number of cage matches recently, including Cody Rhodes-Wardlow in AEW, as well as Roman Reigns-Baron Corbin at Super ShowDown—and there is another NXT cage match scheduled for Wednesday with Roderick Strong and Velveteen Dream. How are you dealing with the immense pressure to exceed such high expectations?

TN: The advantage is we’re the only two females that have had a steel cage match recently. That helps us, and our story is so personal. Dakota and I went through knee injuries, and we’ve come back. The expectations are high, but we can meet them.

JB: Working with Dakota Kai has added a lot to the weekly NXT product, especially since your split in November. What are you most proud of thus far with the storyline between the two of you?

TN: I’m most proud of the passion we bring out in fans. They’re so divided as to which side they’re actually on, which is so cool to see. It’s a personal, personal story, from being best friends and training together every day, going through rehab together, and now we’ve taken it to another level. As heartbreaking as it was to split, we continue to bring the best out of each other.

JB: You have overcome so much physically throughout your career, including the gut-wrenching Mae Young Classic match in 2018 against Rhea Ripley where you tore your ACL and MCL. You are only 25, yet you have already overcome so much adversity. What has the recovery from the injuries taught you about yourself?

TN: The injuries themselves taught me that you’re not invincible. I always thought I was invincible, and I was wrong. The injuries taught me it’s OK to rely on other people, it’s OK to ask for help.

I was always such a stubborn person and I had to fix everything myself. But it’s OK to ask for help. And, as cheesy as the saying is, if you put your mind to it, you can do it. It’s true.

JB: What are the biggest similarities and differences between working in the U.S. and working overseas?

TN: The biggest differences are the crowds. They’re so different and so uniquely brilliant. In the UK, we have fans that sing songs and make chants about you. They’re passionate. But in America the fans are so passionate you can see it in the building.

The UK fans are incredible, and I love going back home and wrestling. The Americans, I feel, step it up one notch where you can feel it. UK is great, incredible, but in America, you feel it. Wrestling evolved from here, with Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat, and that’s the intensity you can feel. It just makes your blood warm and gives you goosebumps.

JB: Growing up, you had an incredible passion for soccer. What made the sport to resonate with you?

TN: I did it because my sister did it. I wanted to be cool like my sister. I didn’t know wrestling existed until I was 16. I didn’t really want to run down a field in the cold for 90 minutes anymore, and then I started wrestling.

JB: Did you follow the United States women's soccer team that won the World Cup this past summer? Their roster is full of incredibly talented, proud women, similar to the talent throughout NXT and WWE. What did you respect most about that team?

TN: I didn’t follow it too much. I don’t really watch soccer any more. I did love it as a kid, but I fell out of love with watching it. I only really play it when I’m with my nephews. I didn’t see a whole ton of the World Cup, but I know a lot about the female soccer team and their stories are incredible. You just can’t help but resonate with the struggles they go through, and they’re very, very strong women.

JB: Who are the three most talented women in wrestling?

TN: Candice LeRae is the best female wrestler in the world, if not a top three best wrestler in the world, male or female. And Io Shirai and Bayley. Seeing Bayley change is so cool.

It’s hard to pick three. You’ve got Meiko Satomura, who has been doing this for so long and it’s just an honor to work with her. But I would, 100 percent, put Candice LeRae on top.

JB: Who is your dream WrestleMania opponent? Do you have an opponent in mind for the TakeOver during WrestleMania weekend?

TN: Dream opponent? Molly Holly. I need it to happen. She’s the reason that I’m in this. She’s the first female I ever saw wrestling. I’ve met her a couple times and every time she’s been the nicest woman in the world. Moly Holly is 100 percent my dream opponent. And if they ever want to do a mixed match challenge with me and Kane, then I’ll do that, too, happily.

For the TakeOver match, I would love to be a part of the NXT number one contender ladder match. I’ll fight and claw with every ounce of being in my body to be in that ladder match. I like to make history, that’s what I do. If I need to climb up, fall off it, whatever, to become the first ever Welsh NXT Women’s Champion, I’ll do it.

JB: For anyone that still doubts Tegan Nox, or, for that matter, Steffanie Rhiannon Newell, what do you plan to accomplish throughout your career, beginning tomorrow night in the cage?

Nox: I just want to prove every person wrong that ever doubted me. People telling me that I should quit on a daily basis after I got hurt, I want to show them I’m climbing to the top, how much I’ve overcome and how much I’ve worked. Their comments, no matter how negative they are, have pushed me to the top.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.